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A closer look at pelvic exams and the importance of single-use speculums

A closer look at pelvic exams and the importance of single-use speculums


Pelvic exams are common out-patient procedures, wherein a gynecologist will examine a woman’s pelvic area visually, with the help of a tool known as a vaginal speculum. Healthline reported that women are encouraged to have routine pelvic exams every year to rule out certain conditions. This article will take a closer look at the procedure, how it is performed and the reasons why the utilization of single-use speculums is so important.

Understanding pelvic exams
It is important for a female or trans male’s reproductive organs to be visually assessed by a gynecologist on a routine basis, to ensure health and rule out certain conditions, such as cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections, Healthline detailed. This is achieved via a procedure known as a pelvic exam. All areas of the reproductive system are checked during a pelvic exam, including the uterus, ovaries, vulva, cervix and vagina. The reproductive organs inside the body, such as the ovaries and uterus, are examined by hand during the procedure. The physician will use two fingers, covered by a lubricated glove.

A typical pelvic exam is performed relatively quickly, and can be completed in a matter of minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The exam can be performed both as a routine preventative inspection, and also as a means of investigating concerning symptoms. For example, as noted by Healthline, excessive vaginal bleeding and pain in the area are common symptoms that may be investigated with a pelvic examination.

What happens during the procedure?
The pelvic exam is typically performed in several stages. As outlined by the Mayo Clinic, the physician will start by inspecting the outside of the pelvic area visually. After this is complete, he or she will insert a tool known as a speculum into the vagina. These devices are used to spread the area open, to facilitate ease of viewing for the gynecologist. With the speculum inserted, the professional is afforded a clearer view of the internal area. This part of the procedure often causes the patient mild discomfort, due to the pressure. The exam concludes with the physical portion, wherein the healthcare provider will inspect internal organs with lubricated fingers.

According to Cleveland Clinic, it is common for pelvic exams to include what is known as a pap smear. This occurs just after the speculum has been inserted. The pap smear is a procedure wherein cells are extracted from the cervix, using a special tool. It is usually painless. The purpose of the pap smear is to send off the cells for inspection, to ascertain if there is any evidence of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Cervical cancer is most effectively treated if caught early, which is why pap smears are so important.

A pelvic exam is often performed in a physician's office.A pelvic exam is often performed in a physician’s office.

Why are single-use tools necessary?
It is routine for health care organizations to use reusable medical tools. These devices are utilized on a patient before being sterilized and then used again on another individual. Recent studies, however, have revealed an uncomfortable fact – that hospital sterilization procedures are often inefficient at completely killing germs and viruses, as well as removing traces of human fluids, such as blood and saliva. Consequently, when reusable medical tools are harnessed, patients are at a small but notable risk of cross-contamination.

This is especially problematic as far as vaginal speculums are concerned, because a study from researchers at Brigham Young University found that sterilization procedures are ineffective at killing certain strains of the human papillomavirus, namely strains 16 and 18. Both of these strains of HPV are connected with the development of cervical cancer in women. Consequently, when reusable speculums are used in a medical setting, there is the risk of patients contracting HPV, which in turn could lead to cervical cancer.

The best way to mitigate this risk, therefore, is for health care facilities to utilize single-use medical tools only. Single-use devices remove the risk of cross-contamination as they are used exclusively on one patient, before being safely disposed of.

Consider OBP Medical
OBP Medical provides a range of single-use medical tools, from laryngoscopes to speculums. The ER-SPEC/OfficeSPEC vaginal speculum, for example, is pre-assembled, easy-to-use and powered by a safe LED light source. Furthermore, it is a more cost-effective option when compared with reusable devices. Learn more and request a free sample today.

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